After jobless claims reached a five-month high in April, last week's tiny dip came as a relief. But a heavy slide in orders for long-lasting goods is less soothing.
Applications for unemployment benefits shrank by 2,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 370,000 after reaching 392,000 in April, according to the Labor Department. In March, new claims dropped to a four-year low.
The government releases its official report on May job growth June 1. The unemployment rate last month was 8.1%.
Overall, though, the stability bodes well for the job market. But another report Thursday provided some cause for concern for manufacturers.
Orders for non-defense durable goods meant to last at least three years, excluding aircraft, plunged 1.9% in April after tumbling 2.2% in March.
Factoring in orders for commercial planes, a volatile measure, brought overall demand up 0.2% to $215.5 billion, according to the Commerce Department. In April, manufacturing activity reached a 10-month high, according to the Institute for Supply Management.
But the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation put a positive spin on the numbers, saying that since the start of the year, commercial capital goods orders sans aircraft are up 7.8% and that factory demand is "growing at a moderately strong pace that is much faster than that of the general economy."
"We believe there is pent-up demand for motor vehicles and capital goods because much investment was postponed during the recession," said chief economist Daniel Meckstroth in a statement. "High operating rates in manufacturing, new job creation, and low interest rates are conducive to capital spending."